What Role Did Women Play in Ancient Rome?

Women in ancient Rome, whether free or enslaved, played many roles: empress, priestess, goddess, merchant, midwife, prostitute, daughter, wife, and mother. But they had no voice in public life.

They also lacked a voice in the story. With few exceptions, such as the words of the poetess Sulpicia or the graffiti of a woman summoning her lover, found scrawled on the walls of Pompeii, what we know of them comes almost entirely from the writings of men in the most elite circles. from Rome.

As in many cultures, the value of women in ancient Rome was defined almost solely in relation to their fathers and husbands; the majority were married in their mid-teens. No Roman woman could vote, play a direct role in political or military affairs, or play an official role in the management of the republic and, later, the empire. Yet we can glimpse tantalizing signs of women – usually those with the most wealth, education and family status – finding ways to claim new powers and rights for themselves. Sometimes they did this by influencing the men in their lives, sometimes by claiming a religious role in society and more rarely by obtaining a certain legal and economic independence.

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